Biscuit Ambade|Medu Vada

By Published On: 26 Jan '22Last Updated: 14 Apr '24

Biscuit Ambade|Medu Vada are deep fried little bites of deliciousness made with a mixture of ground urid dhal, green chillies, curry leaves, ginger and coconut. Oh! so good!!

Biscuit Ambade|Medu Vada

Many Sydneysiders out there would agree with me that the summer of 2021/22 could be safely called as 'Biscuit Ambade' weather!! So today, pamper yourselves for a flavourful Indian deep fried snack of crispy, fluffy, tasty and terribly moreish ambades from the kitchens of 'Deliciously Indian'!!

The summer of 2021/22 (December to February) has been the wettest in ten years, with parts of New South Wales having above average rainfall during December and January 2022. It was also wonderful to note from the Bureau of Meteorology's latest drought report that it was the first time in five years since 2017, no region in this mostly brown land was officially in drought - thanks to the Country's record rainfall in November 2021 which helped clear up the remaining areas of short-to medium-term rainfall deficiencies. That means, we have experienced a reasonably cool summer with Sydney's average maximum temperature being 23.1 C!!

Green and lush lawns, beautiful blossoms in the flower beds, trees looking bright green with new foliage all around, is a treat and a truly spectacular sight this summer. When the weather heats up, so does the wildlife. This summer as our city has become greener, I have seen a diverse birdlife than in recent decades with new species making their permanent home here. It's also exciting to see many of them have had babies and I love the feeding frenzy in my backyard of the feisty and noisy Australian miners and kookaburras !! I have enjoyed many 'aww' moments already!!

Below are a couple of exceptionally unusual birds spotted by our bird watching friends and captured during their woodland walk. Well captured Lavinia and Mohan, and thanks for sharing these rare photos with us!!

Mistletoe Bird

Dollar Bird

A white Peacock - truly spectacular - Thanks to my nephew who captured this rare bird and photographed it in the northern beaches of Sydney!

A male peacock - looking out for a mate - thanks to my nephew who captured it in the northern beaches of Sydney!

I have chosen not to crop the above two images as I would like all of you to experience the beauty of these two birds in their entierity and hence I am posting full sized images. Yes, they are rather large but large is nice when it comes to birds!!

Do you agree with me that rain and cloudy weather bring magic to your tastebuds? I have been resisting preparing fried foods for a while but this cooler weather and overcast skies (yaay fried food weather) have made it terribly challenging to resist the temptation of some comfort foods such as bondas, biscuit ambades|medu vadas, goley bajjeas, onion bajjeas and spinach bajjeas. Oh! there are so many choices when it comes to Indian snacks and then there are the Mangalorean snacks too!! After contemplating for several days, I have decided to make 'Biscuit Ambades' for my next post. These ambades really remind me of the Indian monsoons and cozy fried snacks with a glass of 'kaapi' (South Indian coffee made with boiled milk and loads of sugar").

Today, I am going to show you how to make Biscuit Ambades|ambades|Medu Vadas from scratch.

what are biscuit ambades|medu vadas?

Biscuit Ambades or Medu Vadas are a popular snack appearing on the menus of five star hotels, corner restaurants, also sold on roadside carts and chaiwallas. They are prepared with a batter of urid dhal (a type of split white lentil called 'Black Gram') to which some chillies are added for spice, curry leaves and ginger for flavour and coconut for a bite. Deep fried to golden and served piping hot with ginger chutney, they are crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. With a bit of planning, these utterly delicious Biscuit Ambades are easy to make at home.

Many a times I have wondered that these fluffy gram fritters neither resemble biscuits nor taste anything like biscuits at all, and why on earth they are called 'Biscuit Ambades'. I have even asked my mum this question and she would simply say 'that's what my mother called them and that's the name of this snack'. The conversation ended until next time I would raise the same question again!!

As preparing these ambades involved soaking urid dhal for a couple of hours, my mum would prepare them only on request. Whenever my mother did not feel up to making them, they were bought from a local hotel (in Udupi small restaurants were called 'hotels' back in the day and even now). Yes, it's terribly confusing isn't it?

I recall coming back from school to the wafting smells of these ambades being fried in the kitchen and my mum would sing out loud from the kitchen 'eik pir hadn yeh' (bring a bowl) 'ani hey ambade hoon hoon kaijey' (you must eat these when they are piping hot). They are best eaten when they come straight off the frying pan because that's when they are crispy and fluffy. Once cold they tend to harden a bit. Most often my siblings and I would each take a bowl full of these smoking hot 'ambades' and sit on the parapets (graadhi in Konkani) of the porch (sopo) just outside the kitchen and dining room. There we would giggle, laugh and count who had the most in their bowl! It's true, as children we compare what's in the other sibiling's plate particulalry when there are 5 or 6 children in a family!! Then we would go back for more because the other one had more in his/her bowl. Mum was most gracious to give us a second serving! Ambades are served for breakfast on their own or with chutneys. Occassionally, my mum would make a chutney if we had these for breakfast. My most favourite chutney was the 'Ginger Chutney' which is a simple chutney made with coconut, chillies, tamarind, garlic and onion. This chutney condiment lacks in appearance as its a chutney without any tempering, however, it pairs perfectly with ambades. The recipe for 'Ginger Chutney' is also posted in the 'Recipes' if you choose to make this combo. This is the chutney that my mum used to prepare and I love this combo of 'Biscuit Ambades and Ginger Chutney'.

Here, in Sydney, people drive to the west of Sydney to buy these glorious snacks, as most Sri Lankan and Indian snack shops are located in the west. Most Indian supermarkets also stock 500g Medu Vada Instant Mix (Haldiram's) that makes 30 pieces. Despite all the quick fixes, I still prefer to make these ambades at home because I like my own mix and I can control what goes into my mix. Further, the instant mix does not yield consistent results every time or at least that's my experience anyway! Plus, there is the added bonus if you make them at home, they go a long way as this recipe yields close to 35 ambades. Everyone at home loves them and they are gone very quickly!! My son has renamed them to 'balls' as he can never remember the correct names for this snack!!!

So guys enjoy these balls on thier own or with ginger chutney, treat yourselves for a delicious breakfast or a snack. Enjoy them whichever way you like to eat them. They are great with home made Sambhar also!!!

how to make biscuit ambades|medu vadas from scratch?

Making these Ambades at home is easy - I think its one of the simplest (and tastiest) Indian snacks you can make at home.

Ensure you have the following things ready before you decide to make Biscuit Ambades:-

  • A deep bowl - for soaking the uridh dhal. The dhal needs to be soaked in plenty of water for 2 hours minimum, with sufficient place to rise as they soak.
  • A blender - Not all commercially made blenders are good to blend grains and cereals. I use my Indian blender called "Preethi" which gives me a consistently good paste every time. From time to time, I also use my "Breville" heavy duty blender and that too gives me good results, provided I add a little more water than the Indian blender I use.
  • Urid dhal - a type of split black lentils (image shown below) but looks like white lentils, as for this recipe I buy the husk free lentils.
  • The fillings - You will need fresh green chillies, freshly chopped ginger, grated coconut (frozen or fresh is ok) or chopped coconut pieces (can be bought frozen from your local Indian supermarket), curry leaves and bicarb-of-soda. A pinch of Asafoetida is added to neutralise the stomach gases and adding this is optional.
  • A deep frying pan - as shown in the recipe card below.
  • A slotted spoon - a good equipment to remove the ambades from the hot oil.
  • Vegetable oil - You will need sufficient oil for deep frying.

NOW THAT WE HAVE THE THINGS READY, LET'S GET STARTED!

Soak urid dhal in plenty of water for a minimum of 2 hours in a deep bowl. Soaking the dhal makes it easier to blend. The lentils expand a little during soaking, so you must allow some room for this expansion too. Once soaked well, drain the dhal completely.

Unsoaked urid dhal

Soaked and drained dhal - notice the difference!

Add the drained dhal to the blender or similar appliance along with salt. Add approximately 5-6 tbsp. water and gently stir with a spatula so the water combines with the dhal. Close the blender lid and blend for 2 minutes with one minute intervals. Stop the blender and stir the batter gently with a spatula. Stirring the batter loosens any batter that surrounds the blades and helps the blades rotate. Add the rest of the water again in small increments, close lid and blend for 1 minute. As blenders vary, blend in accordance with the instructions of your blender ensuring that you add water in very small increments. We want a fairly thick batter for this recipe. Once the batter is ground for 3 minutes, I blend it for a further 2 minutes with one minute interval to put some air into the batter. This is an important step to get light and fluffy ambades.

Remove the batter into a bowl as in the image below. Add the sliced chillies, coconut, curry leaves, ginger, bicarb-of-soda and asafoetida (if you are adding asafoetida). My mum believed that adding a bit of bicarb-of-soda made these ambades really crispy. She called it pappadkaar. Mix well to combine.

Ground batter

Ground batter with cuttings

Once the batter is combined with the cuttings (see below image), beat the batter with your hand or with a fork for a couple of minutes. This will aerate the batter and make the ambades light on the inside. Rest the batter for 30 minutes.

Batter combined with the cuttings

Deep frying pan with oil

Once the batter has rested for 30 minutes, it's time to fry. Place the deep frying pan on medium heat with enough oil. Heat till the oil comes to a smoking point. I find that the wooden handle test works well for me. To test the temperature of the oil, place the handle end of the wooden ladle into the oil till the handle touches the bottom of the pan. Carefully check to see if small bubbles appear at the handle end. if so, the oil is ready. If not, wait for a further minute or two. Alternatively, you can drop a tiny ball of batter into the oil, and if the batter rises to the top immediately, then the oil is ready.

Frying the ambades on slow fire gives good results. Fry in batches of 6 to 8 for best results, for 5-6 minutes for each batch.

Once the oil is hot, dip your right hand in the bowl of water just to wet it a little. Wetting the hand prevents the batter from sticking to your hand. Using your fingers, carefully drop tablespoons of batter into the hot oil as shown in the above image. Fry in batches of 6 to 8 as we don't want the pan to get over crowded. It's my opinion that the first batch takes about 6-7 minutes however, the subsequent batches take 4-6 minutes, depending the temperature of the oil. Fry till golden brown and cooked on the inside. Remove on to absorbent paper and cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Biscuit Ambade|Medu Vada

Serve hot with Ginger Chutney as a snack. They are also lovely for breakfast served with sambhar and Chutney alongside Masala Coffee. Yummy!!

If you like this recipe, you must try another delectable snack prepared with the same vadas called 'Dahi Vadas'. Jump to https://deliciouslyindian.net/dahi-vada/. If you are preparing Dahi Vadas, make approximately 12-15 large vadas instead of 30 small to medium vadas as larger vadas are much nicer to eat as Dahi Vadas.

If you have tried this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback. Please be sure to rate the recipe and/or leave a comment below. If you want to see more recipe inspirations, you can follow me on Instagram @lavina_mendonsa.

Biscuit Ambade or Medu Vada

Catherine Lavina Mendonsa
Full of flavour and light as a feather in texture, these deep fried little bites of deliciousness are a simple mixture of ground urid dhal, green chillies, curry leaves, ginger and coconut. They taste so good, you just have to seriously consider seconds and the thirds!!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Soaking and resting time 3 hours 30 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 15 minutes
Course Afternoon tea, Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine Indian, Mangalorean
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 300 g (1½ cup) urid dhal (split and skinned black gram dhal)
  • 1½ - 2 tsp. salt or to taste
  • 3 green chillies cut into 2mm rounds or to taste
  • 30 g grated coconut or finely chopped coconut pieces
  • 20 curry leaves finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp. ginger finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp. bicarb-of-soda
  • 2 pinches asafoetida
  • Bowl of cold water for wetting hand
  • Oil for deep frying

Instructions
 

  • Place urid dhal in a deep bowl and pour enough water to cover it completely. Soak for 2-3 hours. Drain urid dhal completely. Add to a blender or similar appliance along with salt. Blend to a smooth paste with minimal water. I added 11-12 tbsp. water, little by little as we want a fairly thick batter. I blended for 3 minutes at one-minute intervals. As blenders vary, please blend in accordance with the instructions of your blender. If your blender is small, then, you may wish to blend in two batches. This instruction is to be used as a guide only. Once completely blended, blend for another minute or two. Further blending, makes them soft and fluffy on the inside when frying.
  • Remove from blender into a deep bowl. Add chillies, coconut/coconut pieces, curry leaves, ginger, bicarb-of-soda and asafoetida. Combine well using your hand. Beat the dough for a minute or two with your hand or using a fork. This helps to put a little more air into the ambade/medu vada. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Heat oil to a near smoking point on low to medium heat. To check the temperature of the oil, do the wooden ladle test. Place the handle end of the wooden ladle into the centre of the oil, till the ladle touches the bottom of the pan. Look carefully to see If tiny bubbles appear around the handle. If so, the oil is ready. You can also test by dropping a small ball of paste into the oil and if it rises to the top immediately, then the oil is ready.
  • Place your right hand into the bowl of water and wet it. Wetting your hand prevents the dough from sticking. Drop tablespoon/lemon size balls carefully into the hot oil. Fry in batches of 6 to 8 as we do not want to overcrowd the frying pan. Fry for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and cooked on the inside. After two minutes of frying, you may like to move them around gently using a slotted spoon, to fry them uniformly. Remove on to a bowl lined with absorbent paper. Please note, if the oil is overheated, you may wish to reduce temperature to low when you are frying the second and the subsequent batches.
  • Repeat with the remaining batches. For best eating experience, cool them for 3 to 5 minutes and serve immediately with Ginger Chutney. They are delicious served for breakfast or lunch with Udupi Tomato Sambhar and any varieties of chutnies alongside Masala Coffee.

Notes

I have a ‘Breville’ heavy duty blender. I blended all the dhal in one batch with approximately 11-13 tablespoons of water (a little at a time), at one-minute intervals. This water turned out into a correct consistency batter. I also blended the batter for 2 extra minutes with one-minute interval. The ambades turned out crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
These ambades are best fried at low temperature otherwise, they tend to burn on the outside and uncooked on the inside.  The low temperature cooks them slowly making them golden brown on the outside.  As a guide, the second and the subsequent batches require 4-5 minutes only.   
If you have any leftover ambades, then reheat in the microwave for 30-40 seconds on medium and eat immediately. Overheating the ambades, can render them tough.
Keyword Ambade, Biscuit Ambade, Medu Vada, Snacks, Vada
Lavina with Deliciously Indian

Hi, I’m Catherine!

I’m all about creating tasty Indian dishes with whatever’s on hand, even when I’m short on time or budget. I love turning simple ingredients into flavorful delights. Join me on this culinary adventure where we’ll explore the magic of Indian cuisine, one delicious dish at a time!